They’ve only been gone a few weeks, after all. But on Monday, lawmakers return to the Statehouse to vote on a handful of important measures that didn’t make it by the statutory deadline, as the legislature limped across the finish line amid verbal sparring.
Speaking of running out the clock, the federal government has taken plenty of time confirming its $75M ‘Small Starts’ commitment to the Red Line rapid transit project. Thankfully, last week the U.S. Department of Transportation notified Congressman Carson that it will fully-fund the grant – $75M as expected, versus the $50M figure that had been floated amid budget-cutting talks.
This allows construction to move forward on the backbone of our expanded transit system, connecting people, employers, and neighborhoods across Indianapolis without further delay.
At least Tuesday’s primary elections happened right on schedule – and not a moment too soon, for voters weary of tough intraparty contests. (And for those of us still trying to figure out how Mike Braun, Luke Messer and Todd Rokita could have been classmates at the same elementary school.)
With a couple of notable exceptions, most Statehouse incumbents punched their tickets to the November ballot in the primary election. This includes current legislators backed by the Indy Chamber Business Advocacy Committee – all but one of our endorsed candidates won Tuesday as we stood behind some of our most stalwart allies on mass transit, economic development and other key issues.
Our single disappointment came in the GOP contest in Senate District 29, where we endorsed a challenger – small business owner and professional planner Corrie Meyer. Corrie was an informed and energetic candidate with a problem-solving platform, but faced an uphill climb against an entrenched incumbent.
The Chamber didn’t weigh in on any federal primaries, but we’re encouraged that support for last year’s common-sense, honestly-funded infrastructure plan didn’t seem to be a liability for U.S. Senate nominee Mike Braun or District 4 nominee Jim Baird as former state legislators.
A Super-Special Session
Unlike recent special sessions called to break budget deadlocks or pass ambitious tax reforms, the overtime period called for May 14th should be limited to a few bills, nearly identical to the versions that couldn’t quite beat the clock back in March. The list of bills suggested by Governor Holcomb and set before the General Assembly are:
- HB1230 dealing with school safety issues, including additional funding and borrowing flexibility for districts seeking to make safety-related capital improvements;
- HB1242, addressing a raft of tax issues affecting lottery winnings and gaming, various business and hospitality interests and more;
- HB1315 allowing the takeover and oversight of the financially-distressed Muncie and Gary school systems (moves we should be mindful of, as your Chamber works with IPS to address the district’s structural deficits while protecting scholastic gains and local taxpayers);
- HB1316, another tax bill focused primarily on education savings and spending; and
- HB1457 – the standard post-session ‘omnibus’ bill for technical corrections on legislation passed during the regular session.
While primary voters had their say earlier this week, some policy issues demand public involvement beyond the ballot box. For example, the Indiana Department of Transportation’s plans for rebuilding the I-65/I-70 ‘north split’ interchange in downtown sparked a spirited response from residents and businesses in the affected neighborhoods.
The Indy Chamber joined the push for a thoughtful approach that balances neighborhood preservation, redevelopment opportunities and downtown livability with the need to repair the existing interstate and relieve congestion.
A growing clamor from people and employers caused INDOT to reevaluate its original plans and study alternative options, releasing the results publicly on May 3rd at https://northsplit.com/. The dialogue is moving in the right direction, but more public input and economic impact analysis is needed on these options, given the demand for walkable development and business investment in the urban core.
We continue to work with a growing community coalition to ensure that the project doesn’t pave over too much of downtown’s potential as the dynamic core of the state’s dominant regional economy.